Obama bows to Boehner's demands

2011-09-01 13:27
Washington - President Barack Obama acceded to Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner's demands that he delay by a day a long-anticipated address on jobs and the economy to a rare joint session of Congress.

Wednesday's sudden political jousting over the timing of next week's speech was just the latest bitter fight in a long summer that saw a protracted partisan battle over raising the nation's debt ceiling.

In agreeing to Boehner's request that the address be scheduled for September 08, Obama's address will compete with the opening game of the National Football League season - a big day on the American sports calendar, and a conflict the White House wanted to avoid.

But the change now will allow a planned September 07 Republican presidential candidates debate to proceed without Obama upstaging it.

Obama had asked Congress to convene an extraordinary joint session next Wednesday to hear his much-anticipated proposals to put jobless Americans back to work but Boehner balked and told the president he ought to wait and speak a day later.

Obama is expected to lay out proposals to increase hiring with a blend of tax incentives for business and government spending for public works projects.

With July unemployment at 9.1% and the economy in a dangerously sluggish recovery, Obama's plan has consequences for millions of Americans and for his own political prospects.

The president has made clear he will ask for extensions of a payroll tax cut for workers and jobless benefits for the unemployed. Those two elements would cost about $175bn.

Usually, presidential requests to address Congress are routinely granted after discussions between the White House and lawmakers.

Political gamesmanship

But Boehner, in his formal reply, said that the House would not return until the day Obama wanted to speak and that logistical and parliamentary issues might be an obstacle. The House and the Senate each would have had to adopt a resolution to allow a joint session for the president.

Boehner's letter did not mention the Republican debate on Wednesday or Thursday night's opening NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. But the political gamesmanship was clear.

Tweeted Republican presidential contender and former House speaker Newt Gingrich: "From one Speaker to another ... nicely done John."

The White House request came on the same day Obama issued an appeal to Congress to renew legislation to fund highways and air travel that he said would protect a million jobs. The law at issue expires on September 30. A Senate proposal would last two years and cost $109bn, while the House is considering a six-year bill that could cut spending from current levels.

White House officials say all details of the president's address have not been decided.

Among those that are under consideration are tax credits for businesses that expand their payrolls. The president has proposed a similar effort totalling $33bn before. The White House also is looking at a school construction and renovation plan of up to $50bn.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  john boehner  |  us

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